Season of mediocrity, UNC on rise, Kemba in slump and more (cont.)
(Last week's rank on my ballot in parentheses)
1. Ohio State (1)
2. Texas (5)
3. Kansas (7)
4. Pittsburgh (2)
5. Connecticut (4)
6. Duke (3)
7. Villanova (6)
8. Notre Dame (18)
9. BYU (10)
10. Kentucky (17)
11. San Diego State (9)
12. Texas A&M (11)
13. Missouri (12)
14. Purdue (16)
15. Louisville (NR)
16. Georgetown (NR)
17. Minnesota (15)
18. Utah State (22)
19. Florida (NR)
20. Vanderbilt (14)
21. Syracuse (8)
22. Wisconsin (20)
23. Washington (21)
24. Tennessee (23)
25. Arizona (NR)
Dropped off my ballot: Illinois (13), Michigan State (19), Florida State (24), Belmont (25)
The big winner of the week was Notre Dame. The Irish did two things last week that really helped their cause. The first was winning at Pitt, which was even more impressive than when Tennessee beat the Panthers because the Irish did it at the on-campus Peterson Events Center. The second good thing Notre Dame did was not play over the weekend. So the Irish couldn't fritter away their momentum the way so many other ranked teams did.
How fickle is college hoops these days? Louisville got back on my ballot by beating West Virginia and UConn. They won each game by a single point. I also offer a hearty welcome back to Georgetown following the Hoyas' win at Villanova. Louisville and Georgetown play each other tonight in Washington, D.C.
Finally, Utah State is ranked (No. 22 in the AP poll). It's about time. The Aggies are now 20-2, and their only losses were at BYU and at Georgetown. Five of their last seven games have been on the road, and yet they've won them all. It's not like this is an out-of-nowhere program. Utah State has been to the last two NCAA tournaments, and Stew Morrill is one of the most respected coaches in his profession.
It has been a long time since I've been as disappointed in a team as I am right now in Illinois. The Illini have lost four out of their last five, and while their previous losses were somewhat excusable (at Penn State and Wisconsin, home against Ohio State), their loss at Indiana dropped them out. Indiana is playing some good basketball right now -- the Hoosiers nearly knocked off Michigan State in the Breslin Center before falling in overtime -- but still, if you're Illinois and you're desperate for a win, you have to win that game.
Meanwhile, I'm really starting to feel Penn State. In their last six games, the Nittany Lions have beaten Michigan State, Illinois and Wisconsin at home, and their two losses came on the road to Ohio State and Purdue by a total of four points. I gave a lot of thought to putting Penn State at No. 25. In the end, I went with Arizona because the Wildcats won at Washington State, where Washington lost Sunday night. But it was close.
Xavier presents a challenging case. Here's a team that hasn't lost in the Atlantic 10, and on Saturday the Musketeers scored a very impressive win at Richmond. Yet, during their nonconference schedule the Musketeers lost by 20 points at Cincinnati. It's hard for me to rank Xavier without ranking Cincinnati, and as noted above I didn't want to do that. So I left them both out.
I'm going to wait one more week before I bring back North Carolina. I was the last to jump ship on the Heels (I still say they're the second-best team in the ACC), and though they have won three straight, it hardly came against a murderer's row (Clemson, at Miami, N.C. State). North Carolina plays at Boston College tomorrow and then hosts Florida State on Sunday. Win 'em both, guys, and next week you get a number next to your name.
I also gave Marquette a close look. Unfortunately, beating Syracuse at home doesn't get you much these days. Winning at Villanova on Wednesday would get them a lot more.
I hated to bid goodbye to the Belmont Bruins, but when you play in the Atlantic Sun, you just don't have any margin for error. Belmont lost at Lipscomb last Tuesday, but trust me, they are going to be a very dangerous 14 or 15 seed.
Finally, I'd like to issue everyone a warning: I am getting dangerously close to ranking Harvard. The Crimson are 15-3 and 4-0 in the Ivy League. Their three losses have been at George Mason in the season opener; at Michigan by a three points; and at UConn. Harvard beat Colorado at home and Boston College on the road. The Crimson plays the Ivy League's second- and third-place teams, Princeton and Penn, on the road this weekend. If they win those two, I expect (though I can't promise) they'll be on my ballot next week. Get used to these three words, Hoopheads: This year's Cornell.
Click here to send your questions to Seth Davis for his upcoming Mailbag column.